For his new album, Once in a Lifetime, Mac McAnally is indeed doing something he’s never done before. To reflect the intimacy of his concerts, he arranged most of the material around guitar and percussion – yet he acknowledges that several of its tracks outgrew that simple set-up. And while many of the songs are new, he chose to include a few originals dating back to the early 2000s that seemed like a good fit.
So, with 12 songs pulled from different decades and musical directions, what ultimately ties all these tracks together? Simply put, it is McAnally’s ability to see the silver lining, a perspective he’s carried on his journey from being a shy, small-town kid from Mississippi, to working as a teenage studio musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to becoming one of Nashville’s most respected (and self-effacing) singer-songwriters. Once in a Lifetime captures every aspect of his musical vision.
Turning conversations into song is one of McAnally’s greatest gifts, one that led to his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. Two of the songs from Once in a Lifetime come from that era. He co-wrote “Good Guys Win” for the 2006 film, Hoot, and felt like its optimistic tone needed to be heard in this divided time. In addition, the bluegrass-flavored “Brand New Broken Heart” comes from a 2007 demo session of a tune he recorded with his fellow studio musicians, but never got around to pitching.
The thoughtful lyrics of “The Better Part of Living” – and Once in a Lifetime as a whole – can perhaps be traced back to a phrase McAnally remembers from his childhood, when his mother would tell him to “make some use of yourself” on his way out the door. McAnally still adheres to that philosophy today. Asked about the experience of listening to these assorted songs that have now become an album, he modestly replies, “I see a guy trying to be a good representation of a human being. I hope there’s something in what I do that in some way can make someone else’s life a little bit better, too. That’s really what I’m shooting for.”
Blue Gate Performing Arts Center
760 S Van Buren St
Shipshewana, IN 46565
Tickets available October 6, 2023 @10:00 am